Mythological figures in art and genetics: Current perspectives on cyclopia and chimerism

Am J Med Genet C Semin Med Genet. 2021 Jun;187(2):235-239. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.c.31893. Epub 2021 May 13.


Mythical figures have been part of human cultural tradition for centuries, worldwide. Some of them were totally imaginary, others were likely inspired by individuals with malformation syndromes, while others are composites of parts of different species. Various artists have created works of art based on these mythical or hybrid beings, such as cyclops and chimeras. The plethora of representations of artworks in ancient, but also contemporary art (statues, paintings, illustrations, photographs, installations) is proof that they still continue to be a source of inspiration, although their rendering and interpretation have changed over time. Contemporary medical genetic knowledge has revealed the underlying pathogenesis and causative molecular basis of malformation syndromes and delineates the corresponding phenotypes. Today, many figures once viewed as mythical are reflected in living humans with medical diagnoses. Ancient terms that arose in mythology-cyclopia, chimera/ism, and others-live on in the medical literature.

Keywords: art; chimera; cyclops; genetics; mythology.

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple*
  • Chimerism
  • Holoprosencephaly*
  • Humans
  • Mythology

Supplementary concepts

  • cyclopia sequence